Trickle of aid to Gaza through Rafah crossing faces fuel crisis delay, UN warns

Current aid expected to help less than three per cent of the needs of the enclave’s traumatised 2.3-million populace

Internally displaced Palestinians take shelter at a UN school in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. EPA
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A third convoy of aid, made up of 20 lorries that was cleared to enter Gaza through the Rafah border crossing, which it shares with Egypt, is nowhere near sufficient, international organisations warned on Monday.

Current aid is expected to help less than three per cent of the needs of the enclave’s traumatised 2.3-million populace.

Before the conflict, 500 lorries of supplies were sent to the Gaza strip each day, said a representative from ActionAid, an international NGO that advocates for more justice in the coastal enclave.

Monday’s convoy was preceded by a shipment of 15 lorries carrying food, water and medical supplies which was received by Palestinian Red Crescent officials in Gaza on Sunday, the organisation said.

A shipment of 20 lorries of aid on Saturday was the first to enter the enclave after a two-week Israeli blockade that barred the entry of essential supplies.

The fact that much-needed fuel has so far been barred from entry to Gaza was decried by international organisations on Sunday, with the Unwra warning that the enclave’s hospitals will run out of power by Wednesday at which time, over 100 babies currently on incubators would die.

On Monday, Unwra asserted that without the delivery of fuel, it would not be able to distribute aid to Gazans.

Aside from powering hospitals, fuel also keeps ambulances moving and operates the pumps that source fresh water from the ground and the enclave’s desalination plants, the UN agency said.

Gazans have resorted to drinking dirty water amid a dwindling supply of clean water following the Israeli blockade, AP reported last week.

The delivery of the first aid lorries on Saturday happened three days after Israel agreed to lift its blockade on aid entering from Egypt, a deal that was brokered by US president Joe Biden who visited Tel Aviv last week.

Another aspect of the deal was the release of hundreds of US and other foreign citizens currently stuck inside Gaza, however, there has been no word that any of them have been allowed to exit the enclave into Egypt.

Two American citizens were released by Hamas on Friday, the US State Department said.

More aid

On Sunday night the White House said that Mr Biden had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who agreed to a “continuous flow” of aid into the Gaza strip.

The announcement was criticised by far right figures in Israel including National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir who criticised Mr Netanyahu's decision to allow more aid into Gaza in a post on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

Mr Ben-Gvir called for a return to Israel's prior position on allowing aid into the enclave, making it conditional on the release of 222 hostages being held in Gaza by Hamas.

Israel followed its allowance of aid into Gaza with one of the most violent round of strikes since the war began on October 7.

At least 400 Palestinians were killed in Gaza in the last 24 hours, the Hamas-run health ministry said on Monday.

Furthermore, 70 were killed overnight on Sunday in Israeli bombardments, the ministry said.

Lorries that enter the Gaza strip through the Rafah border crossing, which it shares with Egypt, must drive 4km south to the Al Awga crossing where they are inspected by UN workers and Israeli officials, an Egyptian security source told The National.

Al Awga is the main crossing point from Egypt into Israel. It is located about 4km south of the Rafah border crossing.

The inspection process is quite rigorous and has caused delays in the delivery of aid to the bombarded enclave, he said.

It is made even longer by the fact that the lorries have to drive the 4km back to the Rafah crossing after being inspected at Al Awga. Upon their return, they are cleared for entry into the strip, he said.

Planeloads of aid have continued to arrive in Egypt’s Al Arish city, sent to Gaza by pro-Palestinian governments and humanitarian organisations.

Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza strip entered its 16th day on Monday and has thus far claimed the lives of 5,087 Palestinians, the Gaza health ministry said.

Updated: October 23, 2023, 1:30 PM